Protecting your kids on the Internet: practical tips you can implement today
Paedophiles, child molesters, vicious bullies, disturbing porn and even the bogeyman; just some of the things your young child might come across when they spend time on the Internet. It’s a frightening world out there and it’s natural to want to bubble wrap their innocence as long as possible.
But it is an enormous task. How is a non techie parent supposed to navigate all the options? There is a near endless array of blocker software, apps and even tweaks for operating systems, routers and enough general advice to make your head swim. Add to that the fact that once your child passes a certain age or skill level all these steps will be in vain as they circumvent your blockers and surf the forbidden dark Internet corners at school or with friends.
Short of wrapping your child in a blanket for the rest of their life, you’re going to need to child proof your Internet. Here are some simple, practical things you can do today to keep your child safe online.
Protect your child on the Internet: today
Child proofing the Internet happens at a few possible levels. Your operating system, parental control software, mobile protection, special browsers and settings within specific websites are all great defence tactics for protecting a child against Internet smut. We’ve rounded up the best of each category.
- Secure desktop and laptop operating systems: Most operating systems come with parent control features. They just need to be set up manually. Windows has Family Safety settings that can be easily activated and allows for comprehensive control and monitoring for your children. Apple also provides parental control settings in the System Preferences area on your desktop. Using the Apple settings you can restrict access, protect your own account information and there is remote access too. There are also operating systems that are made specifically with children in mind like Kiddix (for Linux) or the Magic Desktop by EasyBits Kids (works with Windows).
- Download Parental Control Software: There is an endless choice for safety conscious parents; and many are free. Parental control software should include content filtering and tracking services. OpenDNS is one of the most comprehensive filtering packages and is free. For an under 12; the following are fantastic choices: K9 Web Protection, Web Watcher and McAfee Safe Eyes. You will need more as your kid comes into the teen years!
- Secure Mobile content:All devices need to be secured, tablets and smartphones too. If you’ve splurged on a comprehensive parental filter, it probably includes mobile protection too. If not, there are loads of apps that are quite effective. Android users have a number of options; from Funamo (a free app) to Mobile Minder. Mobicip works with all operating systems (mobile devices and computers); users rave about how wonderfully it works. There is a free version and a premium version.
- Install special browsers or add-ons: Child safe browsers are great for protecting young kids. Of the Google Chrome extensions available for parents; TinyFilter is one of the best. It blocks and detects inappropriate content. Firefox users are spoilt for choice with add ons. FoxFilter is one of the most popular. Safari users have to restrict site access within their settings. There is also the option of installing a separate browser for your children. KidZui and KidSurf are popular and free. While you’re securing your browsers, The Parental Control Bar is a free application that filters web content too. And while we’re talking about browser extensions and add-ons, be sure to install AdBlock Plus, too. Young children aren’t able to process advertising just yet.
- Tweak settings on specific websites: Google, Youtube, and Facebook all have settings that can optimise your child’s safety online. Enable Google Safesearch, YouTube Safety Mode and adjust all Facebook privacy settings to maximum. Also check which other services they frequent online and if those have their own safety settings too. You want to make sure all privacy settings are maximised and inappropriate content is blocked.
In addition to these steps, you will want to make sure that everyone has separate user accounts. There’s a lot less potential damage that can be done from a restricted account that is entirely separate from yours.
Despite taking all of these steps, your child might still come across inappropriate stuff online. School, friends with insecure devices, accidental searches and even illegal downloads, viruses, advertising, and phishing. The list is endless. This is why trust, guidance and supervision are a crucial part of keeping kids safe online.